16 January 2009

Proust, Marcel. Sodom and Gomorrah (1922). Trans. John Sturrock. New York: Viking, 2004.*

I'd really like to read Proust one day. Like, more than the introductions/synopses to his books.

Proust signals right in the title that this, its fourth volume, is where the theme of homosexuality will come to the fore of his epic In Search of Lost Time. The book opens with Proust's stand-in, Marcel, spying on the sexual tryst between the haughty Baron de Charlus and Jupien, the waistcoat maker. Noteworthy is the impassioned remove that Marcel maintains throughout the scene. If he's shocked, it's more in the line of a curious discovery. Indeed, he reads the encounter as thoroughly and studiously as he would a dinner party.

Keeping with his two-tiered approach to capturing life in Combray—taking both the Guermantes Way, signifying the aristocracy, as well as the more pedestrian (mind the pun) Swann's Way—Proust seems to set his homosexual relationship right up alongside class/power dynamics. Jupien is far below the Baron de Charlus in status and such is the bulk of what attracts him to the former.

Sodom and Gomorrah is also notable in that it signals the introduction of Albertine, who will become Marcel's central love interest. It's well understood that Albertine is a female stand-in for Proust's real-life lover, Alfred Agostinelli. Alfred served as Proust's chauffer—which gives us some understanding of Proust's reading homosexual relationships in terms of class struggle.


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